Who knew it would come to this?
Illegal immigrants who have two-year work permits under DACA have now been admitted to the bar to practice law in several states.
The latest state to admit an illegal immigrant is Oklahoma, whose bar association recently admitted Javier Hernandez, who came to the United States illegally from Mexico with his family when he was a child.
Before the month ends, HUGE shout out to Javier Hernández who became the first undocumented attorney at law in the state of Oklahoma!
Communities, minorities progress when the barriers of “first to” are reached.
— Franco Sui Yuan (@francosy) April 30, 2019
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) called it “utterly mind-boggling” that bar associations in some states are now willing to admit illegal aliens “who have begun their relationship with the United States via a blatant violation of U.S. law.”
“This is especially shocking when one takes into account the fact that U.S. citizen attorneys are regularly disbarred for relatively minor offenses,” FAIR said in a statement to BizPacReview this week. “It is apparent to FAIR – and we believe it should be apparent even to the casual observer – that one who is essentially a trespasser, unlawfully present in the United States, is in no position to be an ethical practitioner of the law.”
DACA, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was introduced by former president Barack Obama in 2012. It “defers” deportation for people brought to the United States illegally when they were children, and awards them two-year work permits and Social Security numbers for the purpose of work. But it doesn’t change a person’s status, and there is no path to citizenship. The DACA recipients are still illegal aliens. And many, according to immigration experts, committed multiple felonies in order to work before DACA, including Social Security fraud, perjury on the I-9 form and identity theft. But under the DACA rules, only those who have been convicted of a felony are disqualified, and the federal government has chosen to turn a blind eye to crimes a person committed before DACA.
There are just under 700,000 illegal immigrants in the United States who have two-year work permits under DACA, and many of them are working their way through college. In California, a special scholarship program for so-called “Dreamers” often covers the entire cost of a college degree, and advanced degrees. There are also several national scholarship programs specifically for illegal immigrants. And illegal immigrants who’ve gone through law school don’t seem to have trouble getting jobs with U.S. law firms.
In Oklahoma, Javier Hernandez actually had a job with a law firm for nine years before being admitted to the bar last month. He was first hired on as a translator with Dunn & Associates in Oklahoma City about two years before DACA began, according to a press release from the law firm announcing Hernandez had passed the bar. Hernandez “benefited from various private scholarships during his law school education,” according to the release.
But DACA recipients also have help from the ACLU, which has filed amicus briefs in several states, arguing that illegal immigrants should be able to be admitted to the bar to practice law.
In March, the ACLU filed a brief in Utah arguing that “in every relevant way” the DACA recipients seeking admission to the bar are just like every other person seeking admission to the Utah bar, as they spent most of their lives in the United States and excelled in law school and passed the bar exam.
But incredulously, the ACLU went even further, arguing that even those illegal immigrants who aren’t enrolled in DACA should also be admitted to the bar in Utah and elsewhere, arguing: “even without DACA protections, an undocumented immigrant can still put a law license to productive use in multiple ways.”
In February, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court authorized a rule change, allowing DACA recipients to be admitted to the bar in that state after the ACLU spent more than a year waging an appeal on behalf of a DACA recipient from India who’d originally been denied admission to the bar.
— ACLU of Pennsylvania (@aclupa) January 26, 2018
Last November, Connecticut admitted its first DACA recipient to the bar, a graduate of Quinnipiac University School of Law.
Denia Perez, whose parents illegally entered the United States with their children when Denia was just 11 months old, and have remained here, were happy to give quotes to the NBC affiliate in Connecticut, telling the reporter how proud they are of their daughter.
Perez, who pushed for the change in the Connecticut Bar Association’s rule so that she could gain admission to practice law, is now working as a fellow in New York. She said she plans on having a career as an immigration attorney.
Other states that allow DACA recipients admission to the bar include Florida, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and California.
What are the ramifications of having illegal immigrants practicing law in the United States?
It’s not hard to imagine how things might go awry.
“What would such an individual do if consulted by a foreign national about the consequences of breaking U.S. immigration law?” asked FAIR.
A spokesman said the organization believes that admitting illegal aliens to the practice of law “sends an inappropriate message that violating U.S. immigration law is both acceptable and without consequences.”
In 2017, President Donald Trump announced he would rescind DACA if Congress did not come up with a solution for the so-called “Dreamers.” But California and other states sued, and the program has been kept in place pending further review by courts.
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